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‘We’re selling an entire town!’ The rare, unique business of ghost towns for sale

towns for sale
Posted at 1:43 PM, Oct 01, 2021

If you’ve bought a home, you know the life milestone that can be. Well, some realtors have a new prospect for you. It’s rare, and it’s definitely unusual, but no matter where you live, there’s probably an option not too far away.

“All these signs are original,” said Christa Swartz of Fathom Realty, pointing to old signs for Dr. Pepper and Vicks VapoRub hanging from a wall.

This time, Swartz doesn’t have the usual job of giving the key to just one property. She’s got so much more than that cut out for her.

“We’re selling an entire town,” she smiled. “I have been a realtor for 14 years, and I have never met another realtor who has sold a whole town.”

Water Valley, Tennessee comes with seven acres, four general stores from before 1900, a stock barn, and a little creek. It also comes with the little things that make its story; the hole in a wall that was once a store’s mail slot, the chipped away part of the sidewalk where a man used to sit and tap his cane.

“This particular area became famous for the apple orchards that were all through this back in the 1800s,” said Swartz. “It was thriving so much the railroad came through here.”

Swartz said in the 1930s and 40s, a bustling time for Water Valley, no one would have guessed the porches would one day be so quiet.

“Cedar trees were introduced to the area,” she said. “They carried a blight with them that killed off the apple trees, and soon after, the railroad stopped running through. That’s the end of probably a lot of little towns across America. People moved on.”

Water Valley became one of several towns in America waiting for its next chapter while on sale.

So, how much do you pay for a town? Bridgeville, California is on the market for $1.5 million. You can have Henry River Mill Village in North Carolina for $1.4 million. Then there’s Cleator, Arizona for one buck under a 1 million.

The price for Water Valley is even lower than all of those, coming in at $725,000.

And yes, towns go for lower than that. You can own the 6-acre Swett, South Dakota for $250,000, well below the average cost of a condo.

In the case of Water Valley, the sale would be going to the four people who have owned the town for the past 20 years, and they do have specific buyers in mind. They want buyers not bothered by the occasional cow in the road.

“The people who own it do not want to sell it to people who will just raze these and create a development,” said Swartz.

Instead, Swartz said the idea is to perhaps model it after the nearby Leiper’s Fork, a little picket fence oasis in the middle of farmland, maybe with antiques, homemade ice cream, and a wedding venue.

Swartz said the offers are already coming in, but just like any other town for sale, it’s about what buyer’s cut out to end up with that key.

“It is very special selling a town,” she said. “This is a story. This is America’s history, and I want to drink deeply while I’ve got this little period of time. I get to be part of the story.”